'Restore trust in CCSD': Nevada politicians call on Jara to resign
UPDATE: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is the second state leader to call for Clark County School Superintendent Jesus Jara’s departure.
In a statement, the Senate’s top Democrat called Jara’s tenure as superintendent a “never-ending stream of petty drama that only feeds the aspirations of bad actors seeking to privatize public schools.”
She went on to criticize the Clark County School Board for creating an environment where Dr. Jara and his senior administrators are not expected to produce results or held accountable.
Jara’s administration has come under fire in recent months after teacher pay raise negotiations between the district and the Clark County Education Association stalled early in the school year.
Democratic Speaker of the Assembly Steve Yeager, last week, also publicly called on Jara to step down last.
State lawmakers have no authority over school district superintendents. Instead, county school boards have that power.
Cannizzaro says she plans to work with public education advocates over the coming months to assess those policies and recommend possible reforms, including a “possible administrative restructuring of the district.”
The 2023-2024 school year has not gotten off to a very smooth start for the Clark County School District.
Speaker of the Assembly Steve Yeager is asking the Clark County School Board to terminate the remainder of Superintendent Jesus Jara’s contract.
Yeager sent a letter requesting the termination on Monday. It comes less than a week after the Yeager asked Jara to resign.
Unfortunately, community leaders, parents, teachers, and students no longer trust that Dr. Jara can get CCSD back on track. This moment in time cries out for a change in leadership to restore trust in CCSD and bring new and fresh ideas to public education in Southern Nevada.… https://t.co/gtkoEU3JOn— Steve Yeager (@SteveYeagerNV) November 1, 2023
In his statement released Nov. 1, Yeager called for the leader of the country’s fifth largest school district to step down because he feels “Dr. Jara has squandered this opportunity, further antagonized the public, and completely lost the trust of the public in Clark County.”
One of Yeager’s biggest sticking points is the district’s inability to negotiate raises for teachers using the $250 million set aside under SB231, passed earlier this year.
“He's heard a lot of concerns over the years about the district, but particularly this year when the legislature invested an historic amount of money into K-12 education,” said Rocio Hernandez, education reporter for The Nevada Independent. “He says he's disappointed to see that CCSD has not finalized a contract with its teachers as other districts have already done and provide a significant raise for those teachers.”
State lawmakers have no authority over school district superintendents. Instead, county school boards have direct oversight, meaning the Clark County School District Board of Trustees is the only group with the power to fire Jara.
In response, district officials urged the Speaker of the Assembly to refrain from wading into district matters, saying Yeager “has his hands full trying to keep his house in order” — a reference to reports criticizing Democratic lawmakers who voted in favor of sending millions to nonprofits with which they had undisclosed ties.
“Distracting from those issues by meddling in the affairs of the district will not change the choices made by him and his members to improperly direct funds by members with conflicts,” the statement reads.
Further complicating matters for Jara is a recent cybersecurity hack that allowed an “unauthorized party” to access the personal information of tens of thousands of students, parents and employees. District officials say an investigation into the cybersecurity incident “remains open and active” and that it’s cooperating with the FBI.
However, the hack has already brought about litigation.
“There's actually a lawsuit brought on by some parents who are frustrated that this is happening and frustrated that they will have to invest potentially time and resources to make sure that their personal information and their student's information is protected,” Hernandez told KNPR’s State of Nevada.
The district is also amid arbitration proceedings with the Clark County Education Association, the group that represents most teachers in the district.
“I don't recall a time when it's been this bad, I can tell you that,” said Jeff Horn, executive director of the Clark County School Administrators Association.
According to Horn, a former educator and school principal, the back-and-forth between lawmakers, the teachers’ union and lawmakers has lost sight of what matters — the students.
“It's disheartening because real education takes place at the lowest level,” Horn continued. “It takes place at the at the classroom level with that teacher and those students in with the support and help of support professionals and site-based administrators... The political world and the things that happen outside, in the bigger picture, never have seemed to move the needle. I think the focus needs to come back to where the real education takes place, which is with that teacher in that classroom and support professionals.”
As for why Yeager is suddenly calling for Jara’s termination, Horn believes it has more to do with saber-rattling than wanting to remove the superintendent.
“I think he's representing his constituents,” he said. I do believe that politics are being played in this. I think CCEA donates a lot of money to politicians, to legislators, hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that many times – and not necessarily Speaker Yeager – legislators speak out in support of the [teachers’] union when they don't see both sides of the coin.”
Ultimately, Horn told State of Nevada, that these leaders need to set an example for the community and for the students they serve.
“None of this stuff is good, and it needs to come to an end,” he said. “[It’s] about getting adults in the room and compromising and getting to a solution and that doesn't seem to be working.”
Guests: Rocio Hernandez, education reporter, The Nevada Independent; Jeff Horn, executive director, Clark County School Administrators Association